Winter in Victoria: 12 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Victoria
Looking for a fun and easy getaway to escape the winter blues? Victoria is one of our absolute favourite places to visit during the winter season because there are literally SO many fun things to do. It also doesn’t hurt that Victoria gets more hours of sunshine on average than Vancouver and has over 2 times LESS rain. BC’s charismatic capital is surrounded by wildlife, filled with delicious eateries and inhabited by the friendliest of locals. So what are you waiting for?! Take a long weekend and escape to Victoria the next chance you get to enjoy the temperate climate and laid-back island lifestyle. Need some more convincing? Here are 12 of our favourite things to do in Victoria this winter season.
1. Spend a day relaxing at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Indulge in a stay at the incomparable Oak Bay Beach Hotel. The rooms, views, and service here are all exceptional and keep us coming back time and time again. Enjoy a yummy breakfast in the cozy dining room before spending your afternoon or evening relaxing in the outdoor mineral pools at the beautiful Boathouse Spa. Pamper yourself with a facial or massage, or float in the three heated warm pools overlooking the Salish Sea. We highly recommend taking a dip during sunset – or even in the rain! This is by far one of our absolute favourite ways to decompress and enjoy some spectacular west coast views.
2. Shop local along LOJO
Take a wander down lower Johnson Street, (or LoJo, as it’s recently been dubbed!) to peruse the shops. This little shopping haven of downtown Victoria is known for its colourful facades and boutiques full of local goods and beautifully curated clothing, home wares, art, and gifts. Pop into Market Square and check out the eateries and do some vintage shopping, and don’t miss the amazing treats and award winning gelato from Mosi Bakery and Gelateria!
3. Cozy up with a hot drink and a good book at Nourish Kitchen and Cafe
Spend a morning browsing the unique selection of new and used books at Russell Books on Fort Street, a Victoria institution that has recently reopened in a larger space. Pick the perfect book and bring it to Nourish Kitchen and Cafe, a beautiful restaurant tucked inside a colourful heritage house in James Bay. Nourish is known for their creative use of local foods, and is one of our absolute favourite spots (in the world!) for a delicious and healthy brunch. After brunch, order one of their unique and tasty hot drinks, (maybe the Matchalicious or the Imperial Sunrise!), head upstairs, and curl up on a couch in their cozy salon with your new read! The perfect activity for a rainy day. Your tummy and your mind will thank us.
4. Escape to nature at Goldstream Park
Located just outside of the city, Goldstream Provincial Park is our favourite place in Greater Victoria to escape for a hike or a walk in the woods. Rain or shine, this park is a sight to see with its forest of massive evergreens, winding river, and striking waterfalls. Visit the impressive Niagara Falls, explore the many networks of trails throughout the park, observe the wildlife and beautiful native flora and fauna. If your timing is right, you just might be lucky enough to witness salmon spawning season or Eagle Extravaganza, when hundreds of Bald Eagles flock to the park for a salmon feast.
5. Take a trip back in time at the Craigdarroch Castle
Are you a fan of history? Or maybe you’re just a fan of Downton Abbey. Either way, you’ll want to meet the Dunsmuirs by paying a visit to their historic home! Craigdarroch Castle is an exquisite and meticulously restored mansion that was originally built by the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time, giving visitors a peek into privileged life in the 1890s. Complete with beautiful furniture, elegant costumes, and authentic displays of daily life in this extravagant home, you can truly experience how the Dunsmuirs lived.
6. Experience the city like a local
Explore some of the lesser known areas of Victoria, and discover some hidden gems only locals will know about! Make your way through Oak Bay Village and do some shopping – a quaint part of town reminiscent of British heritage. For a truly special experience, pay a visit to the Demitasse Cafe & Garden Centre, a lovely little find with delicious homemade eats nestled in the heart of the Oak Bay neighbourhood. You may also want to head down to Cadboro Bay and have a snack at Olive Olios, and take in the views from the beach at Gyro Park. (If you have kids, there is a really great playground here too!). Pop into the quirky Fernwood neighbourhood, and enjoy lunch and a latte at Parsonage Cafe, pick up some gifts or homewares from Pigeonhole Home Store, and, trust us, stop in at Cold Comfort for a scoop or two of the most ridiculously tasty ice cream and ice cream sandwiches (they even have dairy free and gluten free sandwiches – to die for).
7. Take a walk in Beacon Hill Park
Meander through Victoria’s beloved Beacon Hill Park, located right in the heart of downtown. Explore over 200 acres of beautiful gardens, charming duck ponds, shoreline trails, playgrounds, and the lovely Beacon Hill Children’s Farm (which, by the way, is NOT just for children!) It’s a must visit for locals and visitors alike – see if you can spot the peacocks that freely roam the park, the fourth-tallest totem poll in the world, and the mysterious “moss lady” sculpture. Don’t forget to grab a bite to eat and a soft serve cone from the famous Beacon Drive In while you’re there!
8. Hike to Mystic Beach
Spend a sunny, rainy, or even snowy afternoon hiking to Mystic Beach, one of the true gems of Southern Vancouver Island. We often get asked about our favourite beaches in BC, and this one always tops our list. A peaceful and relatively easy hike in the wilderness of Juan de Fuca Park brings you through a lush forest to a beach that’s so breathtakingly beautiful, and so representative of the Pacific Northwest’s wild and rugged coastline. Sandstone cliffs, a waterfall and long rolling waves, this beach hike has it all.
9. Experience elegance at the Fairmont Empress
Located right in the heart of Victoria, this storied hotel is where elegance and Canadian history meet. Recognized as one of Top 21 Iconic Hotels in the World by National Geographic Traveler magazine, this stunning property is a must visit destination whether you’re staying here or not! Stop by the Fairmont Empress Hotel for some unparalleled views of the dazzling inner harbour and the twinkling Parliament Buildings from the Veranda, enjoy breakfast at the Q Restaurant, or for something really special, experience the world famous Afternoon Tea at the Empress, complete with the Queen’s favourite tea blend and an array of delectable sandwiches and incredible pastries.
10. Watch the sunset from Dallas Road
Take a stroll down Dallas Road, one of the most scenic walks in the city. Start right downtown along the inner harbour, and stop to check out the colourful float homes in Fisherman’s Wharf. As you head towards Ogden Point, grab a coffee or stop in at Breakwater Bistro & Tasting Room or a local west coast dinner with a view! Continue on and explore the rocky coastline and the many pebbled beaches along Dallas Road. Catch a spectacular sunset overlooking the Olympic Mountains across the Juan de Fuca Strait, and we promise you’ll fall in love with this seaside town even more.
11. Eat like a foodie
We’ve noticed a surprising trend in Victoria over the last few years – the food scene has been blowing up at such a rapid rate and becoming more and more impressive with our every visit. Foodies, rejoice! Some of our favourite restaurants now reside in this seaside town. Here are some of our recommendations – the options are endless!
Stop by the super trendy and ultra tasty Superbaba (of Tacofino fame!) for their fresh take on a falafel bowl. Often bustling with locals, this hotspot offers Middle Eastern wraps and bowls that are bursting with flavour. Highly recommend, lots of veggie options too!
If you enjoy creative, fresh plant-based food like we do, try Rebar for some amazing vegetarian eats. We’ve been coming here for years, and their quality has remained outstanding. Our favourites include the almond burger, the huevos rancheros, and the super bowl!
Enjoy breakfast at the beautiful Sherwood Cafe. (Wow, the light in here was so lovely on a sunny winter’s morning!) We especially loved the almond milk lattes and their homemade yogurt and granola, and the breakfast sandwich was an absolute standout.
As we mentioned before, we highly recommend enjoying a wholesome brunch at the charming Nourish Kitchen and Cafe. From their farm fresh take on a benny, (with their incredible turmeric cashew hollandaise) to their cardamom oatmeal pancakes, you really can’t go wrong with their menu! Go, go, go, it would be a mistake not to.
Pure Vanilla is one of our all-time favourite Victoria cafes that we visit regularly. Their homemade baked goods are to-die for, and we have our faves that we get all the time – don’t miss their raspberry coconut or pumpkin millet muffins, lemon tarts, coconut cream pie, pumpkin spice cookies…ok maybe just try it all! (PS their soups and sandwiches are delish too!)
This sweet little cafe and garden store is nestled in an old house in the middle of the Oak Bay neighbourhood. Inside, you’ll find the yummiest handcrafted hot drinks, homemade lunch options, (the menu changes daily – the last time we had an amazing cauliflower burger), and endless delicious baked goods. You’ll feel like a local if you visit here!
Craving pizza? That’s us 99% of the time. Pizzeria Prima Strada is known as BC’s first authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizzeria. They focus on using fresh, simple ingredients and with three locations, they’ve become a popular neighbourhood hot spot. We love a good thin crust pizza, and are suckers for a simple margarita with arugula on top!
In our opinion, the Victoria Public Market is a must visit! When we can’t decide what to eat, (or maybe we just can’t agree on one place!) this is where we go. Here you’ll find a colourful variety of vendors that are all so unique. Some of our faves include the Victoria Pie Co for some amazing sweet or savory pies, and Sutra, (from Vij’s kitchen) for some delicious and healthy curries. Whether you’re craving a light salad, a big bowl of comforting udon or maybe a couple of tacos – the Public Market has something for you.
12. Bring your family along
As one of the most walkable cities in Canada, Victoria offers a unique experience for families. Stay right in the city, (the Parkside Hotel & Spa is a great option for families, with comfortable and spacious suites, kitchens, and lots of amenities), and set out to explore by foot. Victoria is such a family friendly place, with playgrounds a plenty, and tons of fun activities for all ages. It’s nice to not have to load up the car every day – Victoria is the perfect place for a relaxing, stress-free stay.